We've been throwing things away for as long as we've been consuming them. So it's perhaps not surprising that the world of industrial design features so many iconic waste paper bins: the Danish 1930s classic Vipp, for example, is on display in New York's Museum of Modern Art, MoMa.
Until a few years ago everything, from teabags and empty cans to bad ideas, ended up in the same place. But as we become ever more used to sorting and recycling our never-ending mountain of waste, waste paper bin solutions have had to become ever more creative. Here are three smart examples:
Mines Above Ground, the Malmö-based company behind the designer bins with integral sorting, has worked out what Swedish offices could save by sorting more of their waste: if an office with 300 waste paper bins, each of which is filled with half a kilo of waste a day, was to increase the amount of waste that it sorted from 20% to 80% it could save more than 100,000 kronor a year. The bins available from Mines Above Ground are made from recycled materials and have four different sections for cans/bottles, paper, food waste and metal. Waste is sorted as it is thrown away, so the phase between disposal, emptying and collection is eliminated.
Design company Materia, which specialises in public environments and contemporary organisations, offers a similar solution. Its collection includes the Trio bin, which has a total volume of 95 litres and receptacles for three separate bags for cans/bottles, paper and other waste.
Two other examples which are testimony to the fact that recycling doesn't have to mean a compromise in design are the updated version of Wesco's classic Push, Push Two, which has two separate compartments and receptacles, and the smart Totem from Joseph Joseph, which has a number of different removable compartments and a built-in odour filter.
A totally different way of alleviating the problem of litter is to compact it at the point at which it is thrown away, thereby reducing and rationalising refuse collections. US company Big Belly Solar has designed a bin for public use which uses solar power to compact its contents to roughly a seventh of their original volume. The bin also communicates digitally, reporting when it is full so it never has to be emptied unnecessarily. Big Belly Solar is already being used outdoors by a number of municipal authorities in Sweden, and Richard Pålsson, product manager for Swedish agency EWF Eco, believes that it's only a matter of time before it starts being used indoors too in office environments, for example.
"Indoors, it can be connected to and charged up in a power socket," he says.